On the UCC’s “All-inclusive” TV Spot

(From OpinionJournal online’s Taste page –Matt)


Exclusion and Embrace
Maybe the networks should air that United Church of Christ ad–and allow a rebuttal.

Friday, December 3, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

Leaders of the United Church of Christ are incensed that two TV networks, CBS and NBC, are refusing to air a commercial celebrating the denomination’s “all-inclusive welcome,” not least toward gays and lesbians. Network executives call the ad “too controversial,” while church leaders cry censorship. Both sides are missing an opportunity to elevate the debate about gay marriage.

The 30-second ad shows a beefy bouncer working a rope line outside a church. He’s keeping various people out: Latinos, African-Americans and gay couples. Words flash across the screen: “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” The scene shifts to the inside of a UCC church, with an obviously diverse and happy congregation. Two women embrace in the final scene.

UCC officials are explicit about the ad’s discrimination theme. “In the 1960s, the issue was the mixing of races. Today the issue appears to be sexual orientation,” says Ron Buford, coordinator for the UCC campaign. “In both cases, it’s about exclusion.” In other words, according to UCC logic, churches that uphold traditional marriage are on par with the racists of the Jim Crow South. Call it faith-based bigotry.

That kind of slur was apparently too much for NBC, whose spokeswoman said that the network objected not to the portrayal of same-sex couples in church but to the insinuation that other faith traditions routinely discriminate. Both CBS and NBC also have policies banning “advocacy” ads and cite the current debate over the federal marriage amendment. The ad has been accepted by other broadcast and cable networks, however, including ABC Family, BET, Fox, TNT and Nick at Nite.

Nevertheless, the UCC smells censorship–and worse. “By refusing to air the United Church of Christ’s paid commercial, CBS and NBC are stifling religious expression,” says UCC spokeswoman Gloria Tristani. Such decisions, she says, put freedom of speech “in jeopardy.” That’s overheated. Media outlets have a First Amendment right to reject messages they find too controversial, misleading or inflammatory…

[article truncated — click here for full article]


  1. Just call me G said,

    December 7, 2004 @ 7:22 pm

    I would love to see an ad with Alan Chambers of Exodus International inviting anyone who struggles with homosexuality to join an Exodus group or to read some of the testimonials on the Exodus website. I doubt you’d find the exclusivity that the UCC is crying about.

  2. Pip said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 1:47 pm

    Great idea about Exodus.

    Of course, even the UCC excludes at some point. I can’t imagine they would so openly welcome “practicing” murderers, rapists or child abusers (not equating those to homosexuality, other than also being sinful behavior that needs to be stopped and repented of).

    This brings up the commonly held strawman about Biblical Christianity: Evangelicals/ChristianRight/Fundamentalists, because they abhor sinful behavior, abhor sinful people. It’s not in the left’s best interests (though presumably within their comprehension) to see the not-to-subtle distinction: Christians — as Jesus did — are to welcome all sinners, including those named above. The difference is in the churches that affirm sin, which no faithful Christian can or should do.

    Then again, the UCC doesn’t view homosexuality as a sin.

  3. Paul S. said,

    December 8, 2004 @ 1:48 pm

    What gets me is the “cry of censorship” language. I get so tired of that excuse. The UCC is failing to distinguish from at least two different kinds of censorship. There is government censorship and there is private censorship. Government censorship is when a government body whether local, state or federal, states through some sort of legal or judicial means what the public can or cannot see/hear etc. Private censorship is when an organization, business or individual determines of its own accord what it may disseminate to other organizations, business or individuals.

    CBS and NBC are both exercising private censorship. They have the right to decide (ie censor) what appears on their airwaves. So yes it is censorship, but a very legitimate form.

    Often the cries of censorship are coupled with a claim to the First Amendment right of free speech. I would not be surprised if somewhere in their statement the UCC says their First Amendment rights have been violated. THe mistake of course is that no one has the right to free speech in a private venue. Our government allows anyone to publish anything they want. THey will not interfere (or at least shouldnt). However our government does not guarantee that we can publish anything we want in the publication/venue of our choice. I can write a tract about the War in Iraq. The government gives me the freedom to do so. But that does not mean a specific TV or radion station or any printed publication whether in paper or online HAS to publish it as well.

    Two examples:
    A local saint louis R&B radio station used to run a commerical for itself indicating it refused to play any Rap music that advocated violence/rape/drugs etc. They exercised private censorship. Rap artists have the right to publish anything they want. The radio station has the right to exercise private censorship and not play any kind of music it feels is not up to its standards. The rap artists rights have not been infringed. THey simply need to find another forum for their music to be aired.

    Companies that run chat rooms often run into this problem. A chat room is not a public forum. It is a private forum. Yahoo has the right to set standards for chat room communiction and if users dont abide Yahoo has the right to kick people off or ban them.

    So in the case of the UCC, they have full rights to create any commerical they want. However, they do not have the right to force anyone to play it. TV stations have the right to deny them.

    The cry of censorship was simply an emotional rhetorical trick to appeal to people’s feelings about the use of censorship. They are hoping the general public doesnt understand the difference between governmental and private censorship.

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